This Assessment Tool (AT) represents a milestone in the continuous involvement and experience of FAO in assisting Member Countries in developing community-based food and nutrition programmes. There is an increasing recognition of the need to engage target communities in the process of nutrition programme planning and implementation. FAO believes that it is important to strengthen these programmes on the understanding that nutritional status is the most important outcome indicator to measure progress against poverty and undernutrition.
In this context, FAO started the process that has led to the development of this AT with the preparation of a methodological framework to guide the review and analysis of existing programmes as in-depth case studies. Nine case studies were selected, and the reporting process defined at a technical consultation held in Rome in October 2001. The field work was carried out and subsequently analysed to prepare an integrated report. The methodology for the AT was developed based on the lessons learned from these case studies.
The purpose of this AT is to contribute to strengthening community-based food and nutrition programmes. The ultimate objective of the AT is to help the users launch and develop a process to strengthen their countrys ability to address the causes of malnutrition. It is generally agreed that we need to address not only the immediate causes of malnutrition, but also their underlying factors if we are to achieve nutritional well being and reach functional and productive capacity of a population.
The methodology is divided into four sections covering the macro-environment, the microenvironment, programme design, and sustainability. The AT is used for making suggestions for action following the assessment. Anticipated users are normally food and nutrition programme planners, but any number of individuals with planning and programmatic responsibility who are concerned about poverty alleviation and overall development can, and should be part of the Assessment Team.
The term macro-environment refers to those specific factors which indicate the degree of commitment of a country to a particular issue. It is recognized that a supportive and enabling macro-environment is essential to the success of a programme, and guidance is provided on how to assess the characteristics of a countrys environment.
In assessing the microenvironment, examples are shown to illustrate the risks of adopting a uniquely top-down approach. It is stressed that what is needed is an approach that makes available good quality services, but at the same time accommodates local conditions and priorities, since this linking or interfacing of top to bottom is crucial to the ultimate success of a community-based nutrition programme.
The AT includes those important aspects of programme design having a significant impact on programme performance. Ultimately all nutrition programmes must aim to improve nutritional status. This improvement must be the primary objective of any comprehensive, national food and nutrition programme and it must also be measurable using accepted indicators. Thus, all objectives need to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART). Assessing the extent of community participation is essential because it is a key prerequisite for empowerment and sustainability. Participation ranges from passive to self-mobilization. A useful method for assessing it is to measure participation in five key areas: needs assessment, leadership, organization, resource mobilization and management. An interesting methodology exists for this, making use of a spidergram, and instructions on its use are included in Annex 4.
Many of the factors assessed in Sections I - III have implications for sustainability. This is an important albeit complex issue which can be defined as the ability to maintain the momentum of those programme activities with a positive impact, once that programme has achieved its objectives. Issues that need to be addressed include programme resources, ownership and the programmes ability to respond to future needs.
After having completed the detailed assessment of a programme, it is suggested that users list most urgent actions, then group, rationalize and prioritize them. Major groups of actions are likely to relate to improving political commitment and public awareness, implementing a programme of human resource development and capacity building, raising the level of community participation and improving programme design.
It is hoped that the use of the AT will stimulate the development of a mindset to continuously seek to improve the effectiveness of support for community-based activities that reduce hunger and malnutrition and alleviate poverty. Hopefully it will not be used for a one-time exercise only. The AT should lead to the strengthening of the process which results in community-based activities characterized by significant degree of self-reliance with household and community empowerment. This process, once it is in place, can also be used for furthering economic development. The time and resources invested in a process of this nature is an essential first step in building a solid foundation upon which a healthy and equitable economic growth can take place.
Food and Nutrition Division
FAO gratefully acknowledges permission to reproduce material used in Annex 4 of this document.
Reproduced by permission of Macmillan, Oxford
Partners in Planning. Information, Participation and Empowerment Susan B. Rifkin and Pat Pridmore, Macmillan Education Ltd., 2001 © Copyright text Susan B. Rifkin and Pat Pridmore, 2001